Ethical and Legal Issues in Magazines

Topics: Ethics, Magazine, Business ethics Pages: 7 (2239 words) Published: November 20, 2011
Ethical and legal issues

According to D. E. Summer and S. Rhoades in Magazines: a complete guide to the industry; magazines face the same legal and ethical issues than newspapers: “[…] plagiarism, libel, slander, invasion of privacy, editorial bias, and inaccuracy”[1]. Indeed, there are some limits to what a journalist can write, an editor can publish, a photographer can photograph, and a designer can design. Magazines go sometimes beyond the ethical or legal bounds. All these issues are parts of the decision-making process that magazines have to handle.

□ Ethical issues
It is a tough decision to run an article or not when it comes to an ethical issue. Magazines writers face dilemmas. On one hand they are “[…] the public watchdog, the guardian of the public’s right to know, the seeker of truth […]”[2] but on the other hand they are confronted to ethical issues. Delicate topics like wars, politic events/scandals, environmental catastrophes, disease etc. raise some ethical issues to magazines’ writers even though the first principle is journalism is accuracy. “Every story should be factual and factually correct. There is no place for plagiarism and no place for fiction in a news story.”[3] However journalists still plagiarize or create false stories as Janet Cooke did with her “Jimmy” story in 1980 for the Washington Post or like the famous Glass who made up six stories and some parts in twenty one others. In all the cases, editors are also responsible for checking the sources of information, as they have the last word, they should be aware of what their writers write, they risks their jobs as well as the writers do. They stake the magazine’s reputation. Moreover, society has placed another pressure on traditional media in general, as information have become easily accessible on internet and they have to deal with “private journalists” such has bloggers etc who are not always aware of ethical or legal issues.

According to the Preamble of NPPA Code of ethics[4], photographers’ role is “[…] to report visually on the significant events and varied viewpoints on our common world.  Their primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand.  As photojournalists, they have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.  Photographic and video images can reveal truths, expose wrong doings and neglect, inspire hope and understanding, and connect people around the globe through the language of visual understandings.  Photographs can also cause great harm if they are callously intrusive or are manipulated.”

They have to face a lot of issues that are not new; from altered pictures published during period of wars serving the propaganda (we can easily find a lot of altered pictures of Stalin) to soldiers killed in Iraq and photos of the 9/11 tragedy, only the techniques have changed. One of the issues is the photo manipulation which has become so easy for photographers thanks to the technology in general. They have to decide if they want to show the truth or not, even if it may hurt the audience. They have to ask themselves if there is an undeniable reason for the audience to see such pictures, how far they should go in witnessing historic events. In the 9/11 case, some magazines decided to run pictures as they, knew that it could hurt families of victims and others had decided not to publish them or to alter them. However I agree with Francis G Couvares theory[5], why should they hide an “unwelcome truth” and why not using our freedom of press and freedom of speech when some countries do not have these rights yet.

Designers have to face some ethical issues when an advertiser asks them to design a page which has to look like an editorial page which makes the reader confused. In the code of ethics, it is recommended to really differentiate editorial pages from advertisement pages if they look similar (as they have been influenced to do so) by...
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